By Jarrid L. Smith
Luke needed Obi Wan, Michael and the Bulls needed Phil, Eminem needed Dr. Dre. It’s a fact that when you’re doing something for the first time, you need a guide. There are countless other examples of famous guides that have helped a person reach their potential. Sometimes these guides take a major part in the development of their pupil, and other times the guides’ role is less intense but just as important. Either way, in retrospect the true appreciation for the guide comes into focus. This article is in memoriam to Max B. Osceola Jr., a guide to many.
To start this off right, let’s go back to the good ole days of 2005. This year brought us some good times. Who can forget 50 Cent’s “The Massacre” album? How can Heat fans forget losing to Detroit 4-3 in the conference finals? The iPhone was still two years away, so Motorola’s Nextel phone was still the phone to use. For those of you reading this who aren’t too sure what a Nextel is, think of it as a phone and walkie talkie hybrid. Trust me, it was the Instagram of its day, and with that in mind Facebook was just a year old and Twitter was still in its development stage. Social media as we know it in 2020 didn’t exist.
Ah yes, the good ole days. If you wanted to get in touch with someone, it was still common to call versus sending a text or DM. If you wanted to book a hotel, you called and set it up. Airbnb was still a few years away. If you wanted to get somewhere without walking, you called a taxi cab and kept an eye out for the yellow car. Uber was also a few years away, no one imagined getting into an unmarked strangers’ personal car. If a football player got hit hard, no one gave a second thought beyond hoping he had a good backup. No one had heard of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), nor its effects related to people with a history of repetitive head trauma. If you wanted the opinion of an informed scientist, there was Dr. Anthony Fauci, who served as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Oh wait…this is still the same. So maybe not all things change.
A precocious young man named Jarrid Smith lived in this world. Yes, this was before he started using the L. for signature purposes, and wrote in the third person. This was when Jarrid was 19 years old, but he could act younger despite his parents and grandparents teaching him better. This was when he had been given an opportunity to attend Florida Atlantic University (FAU) and play football. This was a time when he needed a guide.
Enter Max B. Osceola Jr.,
Exit 3rd Person Writing
It’s as if Max’s life was meant to align toward this moment in my own life. Max was first elected as council representative in 1985, the very same year I was born. Many changes within the tribe were shepherded under his guidance, and as the years went on the people continued to vote for him. I grew up on the Hollywood reservation, and although I did not know Max personally in those early years I know he was looking out for people like me. Young, impressionable, and needing a path forward. No elected representative can fix everything, but their actions show where their heart is.
My earliest memory of Max comes from community meetings and gatherings. In the present, we certainly take these things for granted. Perhaps this is a minor revelation for us now, as these gatherings haven’t happened for most of 2020. In the summer of 1999 my first paying job was at the Bill Osceola rodeo arena. I worked for the summer work experience program, and the job was with the recreation department. If you’re 25 or younger, chances are you don’t remember the arena. I had some great memories working there and participating in the rodeos.
The arena was razed to the ground in 2003 and Max had a hand in that too. I remember hearing about the arena being torn down and I was upset, but that’s because it was a special place to me. I also didn’t know what was going to be built on that spot. The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino was opened in 2004 on the very spot where I first worked. Many people had a hand in making the Hard Rock a reality for the Seminoles, Max was one of them.
I recall attending several funerals over the years in Hollywood, and I remember Max being at all of them. Some were for family, others for friends, but he constantly showed up. There were times when his relationship to the deceased was strong and other times when he didn’t know the person as well, but he did know their family. No matter his connection, he was there and that counts for a lot.
In the early spring of 2005 I was finishing up my sophomore year at FAU and I had a problem. I needed to declare a major, but I had no idea what to choose. This is essentially the whole point of going to college, to decide what to study so that when you graduate you can begin a career. I was missing the point and I didn’t know who to ask to help. FAU had resources and my parents were always there, but I needed a connection between what I was experiencing and the future I envisioned for myself. What I didn’t know at the time was that Max had a hand in FAU football as well.
In 1998 FAU announced that it was going to field a team and that legendary coach Howard Schnellenberger was going to be the person in charge. In 1983, Schnellenberger led the University of Miami to its first ever national championship. Max Osceola had previously graduated from the University of Miami and knew very well the accomplishments of coach Schnellenberger. Upon his appointment to be head coach at FAU, Schnellenberger began to solicit funding donations. He would approach the Seminole Tribe of Florida, and the tribal council approved a sizable donation to get FAU’s program going. Although Max’s exact role in this is not clear to me, it was approved by the council he was a part of and I have no doubt that coach Schnellenberger was had a big role in the yes vote.
Back to my problem. In the spring of 2005 I attended a community meeting on the Hollywood reservation. Prior to the meeting beginning, there was dinner and this was a good time to speak to Max. I was nervous before approaching him at his table, I was certain he would speak with me but I didn’t know if he could help with my particular problem. I took a breath for courage, walked up with hope in my step, and introduced myself. I told him my situation, about FAU and how I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study. I needed his help, I needed his guidance. As in many other times of his life, he was there to help.
Our conversation lasted about 5 minutes, but its effects have only compounded over the last 15 years. Max told me a few stories about coach Schnellenberger from when he coached at UM, and he shared with me what he studied. He told me his major was Political Science, I remember the words coming out of his mouth in the distinct way he spoke. I remember hearing them and not having any idea what he meant. I remember thinking, if this was what he studied and it helped get him to where he is now, then it’s something worth looking into more. I remember the time he took to talk with me, for those few minutes Max was the guide I needed.
I left the meeting that day with a purpose, to find out more about what exactly Political Science was. I already knew it was going to be my major, even if I couldn’t explain what it was. I spent the next two years at FAU studying Political Science and graduated in 2007. From that point on life has taken me on a great journey, the last 15 years have been more than I could have ever imagined. The journey included living in Washington, DC and interning on Capitol Hill, to living in Tallahassee, FL and working within the governor’s office. Other stops included working with AmeriCorps, Miami Dade College, the Ahfachkee School, and several other K-12 schools. The journey would not have been possible without my guide.
A Final Word
Today I’m an educator and I get the opportunity to be a guide to others. I think that is one of the deepest ways to honor what Max stood for and what he did for his community. My regret is that he didn’t get to hear this from me. It’s so true that we don’t often get the chance to thank those who have helped us along the way. It’s also true our guides don’t do what they do for thank yous. They do it because they know it’s the right thing to do. They do it because they know it needs to be done. They do it because they love the people they’re helping.
Who’s the Max in your life? Honor them by being open to guiding others. Do it because you know it’s the right thing. Do it because you can. Most of all, do it because actions speak words of love.